CINCINNATI (CN) – Witness testimony wrapped up Wednesday afternoon
to conclude an eight-day bench trial that will determine the constitutionality
of Ohio’s electoral map, which critics say gives Republicans a clear advantage
in congressional races after districts were redrawn following the 2010 census.
U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black adjourned the court
after instructions regarding objections to evidence and witness testimony were
given to the parties.
None of the attorneys chose to make closing arguments.
Judge Black commended the lawyers on their work in the case,
saying he was “remarkably impressed by each and every attorney.”
U.S. District Judge Michael Watson echoed the sentiments of
“This has been an exceptionally well-lawyered case,” Judge
Watson told the courtroom.
“This is not easy material to wrestle with. These are not
easy issues to wrestle with. I look forward to never having to do it again,” he
Election district challenges go before a three-judge panel
by default, and appeal petitions go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. Black
and Watson are joined on the panel by U.S. Circuit Judge Karen Moore.
is the result of a May 2018 lawsuit
filed by a group of Democratic voters backed by the American Civil Liberties
Union of Ohio, the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute and the League of Women
Voters of Ohio.
They allege Republican lawmakers, including then-Governor
John Kasich, used 2010 gains in the Legislature to pass an unconstitutional
redistricting bill and pull off “one of the most egregious gerrymanders in
recent history,” giving the GOP a firm 12-4 advantage in the state’s
Democrat Marcy Kaptur, Ohio’s longest serving congresswoman, testified
as a rebuttal witness for the ACLU on Wednesday morning.
Kaptur, who joined via video conference, has represented Ohio’s 9th
Congressional District in the northeast part of the state since 1982.
The congresswoman said she was “astonished” when the current
voting map was revealed, and that Republicans had “cracked every single county
I had ever represented.”
“It was actually sinister,” she added.
Kaptur recounted a phone call she made to then-Congressman
John Boehner’s office to protest the new map, which she said had cut her church
and family cemetery out of the district.
While she couldn’t remember who she talked to at Boehner’s
office, she said “they laughed and hung up.”
Attorney Mark Braden from the D.C. firm Baker and Hostetler cross-examined
Kaptur on behalf of the intervenor defendants – Republican House members from Ohio – and pointed out
that the congresswoman’s office was unable to produce any documents regarding
any protest of the map before it was approved by the Ohio Legislature.
Kaptur admitted she had not contacted any member of the Legislature
prior to the map’s release, but called the current map “a radical gerrymander.”
“Ohio’s [represented] 12-4 in a state that votes 50-50,” she told the court, adding that Republicans “got a good deal out of it.”
No timetable has been set for a verdict in the trial.
In their lawsuit, the Democratic voters claimed GOP
officials used a Columbus
hotel room codenamed “the bunker” to formulate their plans and develop what
would eventually become House Bill 369.
The bill was passed in 2011 and “was designed to create an Ohio congressional
delegation with a 12 to 4 Republican advantage – and lock it in for a decade,”
according to the lawsuit.